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New bottom tool barOver the past few months, we’ve been taking into consideration how our clients use our video conferencing technology, especially on the new Meeting Room where most of the magic happens! Through research, planning and diligently reaching out to clients, we’ve been assessing what we can do in the back-end to improve the customer in-call experience in the front-end.

Based on current trends, how clients are using the current technology, and how we see video conferencing shaping over the coming year, here’s what we’ve done to make FreeConference.com stand out and be a key player in the industry:

  1. New Toolbar Location
  2. A Dynamic Toolbar
  3. Better Access to Settings
  4. Updated Information Bar

By updating these functions, we’ve been able to improve the meeting room user experience and make it work more smoothly. Welcome to the updated FreeConference.com Meeting Room that is decluttered and easier to host and moderate meetings. Here’s what we’ve got in store for you:

upgraded bottom tool bar-min1. The New Toolbar Location

While researching to see how participants were navigating the Meeting Room, it became clear that the floating menu with key commands (mute, video, share, etc) wasn’t easily accessible because it was only seen when the mouse was moved on-screen or the display was tapped. Not being able to view the toolbar at all times was less of a help and more of a hindrance!
Now, the toolbar is stationary and visible at all times. There is no need to search the screen for the menu/toolbar. It’s permanently at the bottom of the page and will no longer disappear if the user becomes inactive. Users can enjoy this more intuitive and user-friendly approach to being able to view and click the toolbar at any time.

new upgraded tool bar2. A Dynamic Toolbar

Still keeping in line with a toolbar that works for you instead of you having to work for it, what was once two toolbars (one located at the top and one at the bottom of the screen) has now become just one toolbar at the bottom.

Participants will notice that all secondary features are neatly tucked away in the new overflow menu labeled “More.” This change in location offers instant control to the commands that are used more frequently and to neatly “put away” commands that aren’t used as much like Meeting details and Connection.

The most important controls – audio, view and leave – are made visible upfront and center so there’s no time lost hunting on screen for an important function. Intuitively designed, the participant list and chat buttons are also located on the right, whereas everything else is on the left.

Another addition includes the instant resizing of the menu that dynamically snaps to fit the device it’s being viewed on. On mobile, the important commands will be viewed first with the buttons and remaining commands pushed up into the overflow menu.

Audio options3. Better Access to Settings

Looking to make your experience more customized? We’ve recreated the user navigation to accommodate what you need and have it readily accessible to you when you need it, like when you need to sync your headset to Bluetooth on your laptop or have to adjust the settings on your camera for optimized viewing. Settings like Bluetooth or switching from the built-in to external camera are quick to click.

Changing your virtual background or accessing the camera icon to verify which device is being used is also painless. No need to click, dropdown, and search for minutes to find it. It’s all there for you to see on the page.

Need to troubleshoot? It only takes mere seconds and fewer clicks. Just click the chevron next to the mic or camera icons. All settings can be reached via the ellipsis menu.

4. Updated Information Bar

To make it easier for current clients and more appealing for guests coming in from other services, the view change (Gallery View and Speaker Spotlight) and full-screen buttons have been brought up to the top right of the information bar. At the top left, the timer, participant count, and recording notification have remained in place. This information bar now remains static.

meeting information button

Furthermore, participants can click the New Info button where they can easily see the meeting details. This information can also be accessed from the bottom menu bar.

FreeConference.com is proud to offer these updated functions and bring clients the best user navigation and experience possible. As a result, we’ve been able to declutter the page and make it more visually appealing and intuitive to use. With more commonly used commands available upfront and less used commands accessible via the overflow menu, plus settings that are only a few clicks away, participants can expect a high-quality calling experience that mirrors today’s current video conferencing trends.

Ready to sign up and try it for free? Sign up here or upgrade to a paid plan here.

The key to running an effective formal meeting is a well thought out agenda. When you prepare ahead of time by writing an agenda in advance with detailed information about the meeting, you will not only save time for everyone involved, but the outcome is more likely to be a success.

Here are 5 items you should always include when creating an effective meeting agenda:

5. Define the meeting goal. (Or goals)

FreeConference Puffin waving handsThis might be the most important part of the agenda. It specifies the purpose of the meeting and the outcome or decision you are hoping to reach at the end. It allows everyone involved to have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and why their participation is valued.

When the agenda includes starting with the goal, you are more focused on the end result. while creating the rest of the meeting agenda, improving the efficiency of your meeting before it even begins.

Check out the meeting list!

4. Outline a list of meeting agenda topics for discussion

Once the goal of the meeting has been established, prepare for the meeting with a list of important topics for discussion.

Each discussion topic should assist in achieving the meeting goal. The list can be brief but should be detailed enough so that team members can prepare for the team meeting to make an effective contribution.

A common method is to position each topic as a question. This kickstarts the thought process for your participants and provides a check-in on its relativity to the meeting goal.

Each topic should have an owner and a specified amount of time to cover the topic. Topic ownership provides accountability. A time frame keeps the meeting on schedule. Download our free meeting agenda here: FreeConference Meeting Agenda Download

3. Identify the list of required attendees

The challenge presents itself, not when deciding who to invite, but who not to invite. Only people who really need to be at the meeting should be on this list.

If you’ve established your meeting goals and assigned meeting topics, you should have a good foundation to work with to finalize your list of attendees. With that in mind, ask yourself three questions when considering each meeting participant. If you answer yes to any of the questions, add him or her to the list of agenda items:

If you’re unsure, consider making his or her attendance optional. You can always send a post-meeting summary, recording, or transcription instead. Meeting minutes from a note-taker, not always required.

One of the biggest complaints about business meetings is that they are a waste of time. Managing meetings becomes easier when syncs stay around 30 minutes. Be respectful of your colleagues’ time without wasting time or losing out on results.

2. Leave a section for action items and off-topic discussions at the end of your meeting agenda

man using phone and laptop for meetingFollow-up is just as important as the meeting itself. At the bottom of the meeting agenda template, it is beneficial to include a section where attendees can take notes, document action items, decisions, and takeaways. Having this section organizes the conclusions made in the meeting and allows attendees to visualize the process that has to take place afterward.

Unexpected topics can arise during the meeting that steers focus away from the end goal. To stay on track and on time, “park” the off-topic discussion in the “Parking Lot”, usually at the end of the agenda, to revisit outside of the previous meeting. Another common term for this is “Let’s take this offline.”

1. Last, but not least, double-check meeting details, such as time, place, and conference logistics

This is particularly important if attendees will be participating in your meeting remotely. Make sure that all conference details are clearly outlined and correct, including dial-in numbers, access code, and any links to your online meeting room.

Or, create a meeting with FreeConference.com and the conference details are populated in all invitations and reminders, along with your meeting agenda. 

Try to send out the agenda at least 48 hours in advance.

Advance notice provides attendees with the time to prepare for the board meeting and to ensure that they don’t have any conflicts in their schedule.

Try to send out the agenda at least 48 hours in advance.

Advance notice provides attendees with the time to prepare for the meeting and to ensure that they don’t have any conflicts in their schedule.

This blog post probably wouldn’t exist 20 years ago (insert modern globalization cliché here), as more companies find employees that are spread all over the globe, the demand for a Time Zone management was formed. Here are Top 7 business tools for managing Time Zone differences for remote team members.

Timefinder1. Timefinder

Let’s start with the big picture, the Timefinder is a simple but handy app that shows time zones on the globe. The app lays out the countries of the globe. The handy tool bar on the left allows you to pick your cities. When a city is picked, the local time is shown on the tool bar and the map.

2. Boomerang

boomerang time zone app

Boomerang helps you schedule emails so they could be sent out later. This is handy especially for team members abroad in case you send something urgent while they are off duty. Boomerang integrates with Gmail to help you send certain emails at certain times, simple enough.

3. Time Zone Converter

time zone converter appLike a calculator or currency converter, this app is as simple as it gets, 2 clocks, the one on the left always displays local time. The clock on the right is where you enter a major city, it will give the local time in that major city, perfect for time zone emergencies and quick searches.

4. World Clock Meeting Planner

timeanddate time zone appEver get frustrated with planning a meeting with colleagues overseas while dealing with different time-zones? Well the World Clock Meeting Planner allows you to enter multiple locations so you get a clear view for the answer to “What time is it there?” Allowing easy planning for trans-national meetings.

5. Timezone.io

timezone.io appTimezone.io allows you to keep track of the local time of your team members. Simply put your team members and their affiliated cities on the website so you get a clear view of all your team members and their local times. A useful visual interface.

6. World Time Buddy

Ever get frustrated with planning a meeting… wait a minute didn’t we go through this already? World Time buddy is similar to World Clock Meeting Planner in that you chose 3 or more cities to see what time it is in other locations compared to a certain local time. This app has Widgets and mobile app integrations too.

world time buddy time zone app

7. Just use your phone (iOS)

Feeling repetitive? You’re not alone, apparently there’s only so much you can do with Time zones. If you have an iPhone, simply use the World Clock feature to add specific locations to compare different time-zones.

world clock feature for iPhone

 

P.S. We have our own!

If you're feeling flustered by all of these choices, don't fret just yet. FreeConference.com has our own time-zone management app to manage your international conference calls! You can find it under the Schedule function or in Settings – > Time Zones.

a pair of hands hold a clock and have three different time from three cities aside

Echo is one of the most annoying distractions that you can have on any type of conference call.

How to Eliminate Echo on Conference Calls

Echoing can happen on any type of conference call: a video conference, free conference calls with a dedicated dial-in or even on a conference call with toll-free numbers. As someone that has tried to communicate with a caller while they were echoing, I can honestly say that being unable to hear someone is extremely frustrating. While conference calling technology has enhanced our communications, it has created unique issues that need to be addressed – namely, conference call echo. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when dealing with it.

1. Conference Call echo is usually caused by someone using a speakerphone.

laptop with headphone to eliminate conference call echo

Try using a pair of headphones to eliminate echo! Photo by Gavin Whitner

Even though conference call echo is a legitimate issue, it might surprise you to know that if everyone on a conference turned their volume down halfway, it might just eliminate conference call echo forever. Why?

Echo occurs when a person's microphone picks up sound from their speakers. That sound is once again played by the speakers and picked up by the microphone, creating an infinite loop that we call echo. When audio is played through headphones, echo becomes virtually impossible. This is why echo is usually caused by participants using a speakerphone.

TIP! During the call, ask if anyone is using a speakerphone. If there is a group on speakerphone, ask them to either separate the speaker from the audio output (which causes the echo) or throw on a pair of headphones.

2. Figure out who is causing the echo on the call.

TIP! If your conference participants are complaining about echo, but you do not hear anything, you are the cause of the echo.

Most people assume that if they cannot hear the problem then it is unrelated to them, but this rule does not apply to conference call echo. Most of the time, the only person who can't hear the echo is the one causing it.

TIP! If you are in a conference where one or more participants is complaining of echo but you don't hear it, try muting your line to see if that fixes the problem. If you are causing the echo, simply turn down your speaker volume, use headphones, or more your microphone farther away from your speakers.

3. As a conference moderator, you can use the online participant list to easily determine who is causing the echo.

in call page with text chat window open

Expand the participant list located on the right-hand side of your online meeting room. Select "MUTE ALL". Then, unmute them one by one by clicking their unmute button in the participant list to determine who is causing the echo. If they are the cause of the echo, keep them muted to keep the line clear and free of distractions.

 

 

 

View of opened laptop on desk beside cactus and mobile device, displaying beautiful wooden forest up closeJust because we’re living in a new normal, it doesn’t mean students can’t escape the four walls of the classroom to see the world. In fact, that’s one of the biggest advantages of a virtual classroom – students now have the opportunity to experience far-off lands, different cities, and interesting locations in a way that’s safe and provides fantastic learning material.

Curious to know how video conferencing can transform a virtual classroom (or any online learning environment) into a dynamic and visually engaging space? Want to how both educators and learners, of all ages, from junior school to post-grad can benefit from a virtual field trip?

Here are a few things you should know about how to teach in a virtual classroom when it comes to planning and executing virtual field trips:

Here are a few ways that detail how to make online classes more interactive with virtual field trips:

  1. View of opened laptop partially covering body of young woman smiling and waving, seated at desk interacting with screen wearing headphonesGet In Touch With The Local Community
    After you’ve selected the location you want to “visit,” consider how you can get in touch with a local or someone within the community who can show you around and take you on a tour! Can’t connect with someone living in the location you want to explore? With free video conferencing, your virtual classroom can open up to just about everywhere with curated tours, and well-designed trips that can take you into places you never thought possible! Try going on a walk through the Johnson Space Center or into Sơn Đoòng, the world’s largest cave in Vietnam.
  2. Help Your Students Learn and Explore With a Virtual Classroom
    Go further than just the virtual classroom with virtual field trips that bring students right into the action. Imagine being able to watch a live surgery in a first-class hospital’s operating room. Or experience a real-live active volcano at the foothills of an Icelandic mountain. It’s easy to almost feel like you’re there in real life when you can tune into a live stream and share it with the class using free video conferencing. Simply click the Screen Share option to bring everyone onto the same page. Got a YouTube live stream you want to share? Copy and paste the link in the chat box during a video chat or access it on your screen and screen share. It’s that simple and engaging!
  3. Angled view of a young woman using laptop on table, seated on ground at home beside couch with exposed brick in background“Travel” With Other Classes
    Join forces with other classes all over the world to broaden your reach and open up networking opportunities. Become virtual pen pals or international classmates when you can meet each other in an online setting and connect to work on group projects, share opinions, and swap insights.
  4. Share On-Location
    Invite students to be their own news anchors by having them “report” what they are seeing and learning on-site. Using a green screen, stock 360 images, and video conferencing, they can be “on-location” in the arctic conducting interviews with polar bears, sharing the weather details of the sunny but chilly tundra they’re in. The creative and interactive learning possibilities are plentiful!
  5. Go More Than Once To The Same Location
    Each time you go, get students to point out and learn different things about the location. For example, if you went on a virtual excursion to a specific museum like the National Museum of History to walk around the Cyprus exhibit, the teacher can pull up the trip, screen share with video conferencing, and guide students on a curated tour, pointing out certain artifacts. Visit again, but get a student to lead this time. Let the student share what they learned about ancient pottery or a specific piece of art.

Let FreeConference.com assist you with your virtual classroom setup. Plan your next virtual field trip with free video conferencing software that grants you and your learners access to incredible places near and far. Just because you can’t physically go somewhere, it doesn’t mean somewhere can’t visit you! With a few simple features including Screen Sharing, and File and Document Sharing, FreeConference.com lets you uncover and explore museums, beaches, countries, and more with a few clicks. Get started now.

Black and white view of chairs aligned in a circle with a tablet laid down on chair in foreground.jpgA good support group online doesn’t have to feel impersonal. In fact, with the right video conferencing technology, it can feel like quite the opposite. Even in an online setting, the benefits of support groups are aplenty, and when properly structured can be a source of healing, community, and informative transmission.

So what are support groups and what makes a good support group stand out from the rest? An online support group is meant to be an outlet that unites people who are going through the same thing in a virtual setting to swap stories, share words of encouragement, provide comfort, and dole out advice. It can be led by an expert facilitator or by someone who has been through the ordeal themselves. (more…)

Online support groupsView of woman with a young child hugging her from behind, seated at desk at home in living room on laptop using a tablet-min might sound a little “new age” for those who aren’t initiated into the virtual world. Let it be known, however, that even in a digital environment, an online support group can provide the valuable group dynamic, emotional reinforcement, and first-hand health information hard to come by otherwise. Especially as we move forward navigating a new normal, an online approach that creates a safe space to speak out and connect with others on the same journey can be a truly healing process.

(more…)

Man sitting at communal desk near window, engaged on laptop, using finger to navigate screen, with another person on laptop in background-minJust because the world has put a halt on how day to day life is carried out, doesn’t mean that learning has to follow the same path. In fact, it’s skyrocketed! You’ve probably heard the words “virtual training session” get thrown around quite a bit. That’s probably because with the advent of a worldwide shift to doing almost everything online, so too has training – all kinds of training!

Read on for a few pro-tips about what, why and how virtual training sessions are shaping the way people of all ages from all places learn, connect and share without limitations. (more…)

View of opened laptop against white brick wall with money floating around itYou probably have an idea of what campaign fundraising is, even if the words “campaign fundraising” only bring up images of Girl Guide cookies! While this is a pretty basic concept, the idea remains the same.

Promoting your event, getting candidate exposure, and shining a light on the needs of the community all require the financial means to actually make a difference and get things done.

(more…)

Casual-looking man with laptop, smiling and looking into the distance to the right, seated at a picnic bench in a coffee shop-minSo you’re wondering how to start a support group online.

In light of a global pandemic, it’s been challenging for people to get the help and support they need. Being separated, and feeling disconnected, especially when in the throes of a mental health breakdown, trauma healing or in the middle of therapy treatment, it’s easy to feel derailed. Getting further away from the path towards healing can set anyone on a downward spiral.

But there’s hope – and lots of it. (more…)

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